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When One of the Parents Begins to Step Up Consistently - Part 1

And now I am finding myself in a new position in Matthew’s life. Maybe it’s not so new as it is evolving. Matthew’s mother has been stepping up in his life consistently for almost a year now. At first it seemed superficial and I didn’t know what to make of it. But as time goes on, I am seeing more effort and more active participation. I am also seeing that she is beginning to realize that her son has issues beyond “that’s a boy thing”, recongizing that her son truly does have special needs that are not always visible to the average onlooker.

I can honestly say that I did not expect this. And I can honestly say that I am cautiously happy for Matthew.  And now I realize that I may need to conceed some issues and think very hard and very seriously about what is in Matthew’s best interest (which is now in sharp contrast to my desire to raise him to adulthood).

I am seeing his mother make real and sincere efforts in Matthew’s life. She is trying, and she is learning. Maybe she did not have a role model in her life to help her learn to parent two children with special needs. Maybe she did not feel she had the strength or support (or both) to do it on her own. I’m not sure. I don’t mean to make excuses for her, but I am seeing something different, and I’m seeing it over a period of time. I am beginning to wonder if  this might be the time to allow Matthew to move in with her, with a few guidelines and safeguards for Matthew (of course).

In the past week or so, I have created a list of things that I think would be important before and during a transition to her home. Last year, she was required by the GAL (Guardian ad Litem) to attend parenting classes. That never happened because the GAL never set it up. I will ask her to find her own parenting classes and take them on her own. That will let me know if she is willing to be resourceful, not only for herself, but also for Matthew. I strongly believe that such classes will be immensely helpful in learning how to be a better parent and how to deal with some of the challenges that Matthew will undoubtedly present. Also, since she is living with her boyfriend (they have been living together for about 2.5 years and Matthew adores him), I think it would also be important for him to take those classes as well. I will insist on it. Raising a child with special emotional needs is challenging. and I don’t think either one of them is fully prepared for the challenges that will arise (but then, who is?)

Since this will occur outside of court, I believe I have more leverage to ask for things that will make sense for Matthew and provide a backup for his mother. Since I am currently Matthew’s legal guardian, I think it’s important to remain as such, even if I’m not not his primary caretaker. Matthew’s father has minimal interest in spending time with him, and if anything were to happen to Matthew’s mother or her living situation that would require a backup, I want him to be able to come back to live with me with minimal red tape. I will not agree to any transition without being listed as a legal guardian.

There are other things that I will ask for, such as asking her to step up and make more of an effort for herself so that Matthew can see her as a positive role model who follows the rules that are expected of her (simple things such as wearing her seat belt make a big difference when you’re a role model). I know this might sound like a small thing, but without a role model who takes safety or other rules seriously, how will he know how to take care of himself? And if they’re in an accident, maybe she will be safe and be able to continue to take care of him. It’s important. I know this is taking liberties, but this is where that leverage kicks in. A judge might not “order” it, but I think the GAL will agree with me, and I know it will only help in the long run. I might be able to get it in, and I think it’s worth trying.

She will also need to learn about the emotional support services in her school district and work together with me and both schools to make sure Matthew’s needs can and will be met in the school environment, and she’ll be required to provide information about how she would deal with childcare and extra curricular activities in her area. In fact, I’d like to see her set up an activity in her area in advance of him living with her.

I think all of these conditions are reasonable and realistic, and I won’t let Matthew move unless they are met. I don’t know if I’m missing anything, but I want Matthew to have a wonderful life and will do everything I can to make that a reality whether he lives with me or not. It’s a big step that I haven’t taken yet. I’ve decided to wait just a little while longer, but I expect to see more of the same good stuff I’ve been seeing. Last year, I didn’t have this same set of facts, and I didn’t see the same level of involvement and participation. I don’t think you need to let a judge  decide when you can negotiate the terms yourself in a way that truly will be in the best interest of the child.

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Standing in place of the parent, or acting parent, or "in loco parentis" is a big job that comes with a unique set challenges. I created this blog to share my story and my experiences with those who find themselves in a similiar situation. I look forward to hearing your comments!

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